For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. -Ephesians 2:8-9
Finding Religion The average hip-hop fan is probably familiar with the name Chance the Rapper. Chance has stormed the hip-hop scene with music that is eclectic and filled with themes familiar to the church life experienced by many of his listeners, both black and white. Chance is joined by fellow rappers Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole in speaking of Christian themes in their music. New Republic wrote an article called “Hip Hop Hymnals”in which they stated that if you listen to Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar that “a striking trend emerges: Some of the most prominent and critically acclaimed artists in rap are finding religion”.
The article further states:
The religion in these songs is not especially concerned with the traditionally exclusive doctrines of Christianity. It would be closer to the truth to say that black cultural identity itself is the religion, a religion in which black Christians and black Muslims form two separate but noncompeting sects. The rites of this religion would be nothing more or less than the performance of black music itself, with rap at the forefront.
Quotes like this force us to ask some questions. Does making “Sunday Candy” keep a rapper from going to hell, as Chance the Rapper stated on “Ultralight Beam”? What distinguishes Christianity from other religions? Are good works, a few nods toward Jesus in music, and infrequent church attendance enough to save us for eternity?
There are a multitude of differences that could be mentioned here, but one of the most primary points of contention between Christianity and every other religion is grace. Put simply, every other religion in the world requires its adherents to do good works of some sort to get to God—even when their concept of God is oneself. Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, is centered upon the major doctrinal truth found in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith… not as a result of works.”
The Nature and Function of Grace
Before looking at what grace does, it is crucial to have an understanding of what grace is. Grace, charis in Greek, refers to the kindness and favor of God extended as a gift to undeserving recipients. In the context of Ephesians, grace is extended to people who were dead in trespasses and sin, sons of disobedience, and children of wrath (v.1-3). This is the description of every human being, including you. We are all on the naughty list. We are all deserving of the electric chair. We all deserve a special place in hell. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Grace has “undeserved” and “unmerited” written all over it. As Shai Linne and Timothy Brindle reminded us, “Grace is unmerited favor” and “God’s riches at Christ’s expense”. There are volumes of literature which could be (and have been) written on the nature and essence of grace. Put simply, “it is the gift of God”.
We are saved by grace. Paul writes that we are saved by grace, and the salvation being referred to, is justification (being declared righteous). We need a righteousness that is not from within ourselves in order to be saved, and this righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-22). It has to be an “alien righteousness” as described by Martin Luther. Romans 3:23-24 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and that all who are saved are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption of His Son. The grace that justifies is a grace that is costly. It was purchased for us with the blood of Christ, and His righteousness is credited to our accounts in exchange for our sinfulness.
We are saved by grace through faith. There are two types of faith in the world. There is the faith that says, “I believe that chair is sturdy enough to hold my weight”. There is also faith that says, “I believe the chair is sturdy enough to hold my weight.. I’m sitting in it right now”. The difference is undeniable and has much to say about grace. Some people deny grace by refusing to believe that it even exists (legalists). Others deny grace by misunderstanding and abusing it (antinomians). The first group denies grace and lives as though imputed righteousness is not enough. The second group cheapens grace and lives as though imputed righteousness exempts them from the holiness required to see God (Hebrews 12:14). True faith is the faith that trusts in Christ Jesus alone for their positional righteousness, and fights, with the strength of Christ, to increase in being made more righteous in the present tense. In words of Martin Luther, “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace.”
Grace and faith are gifts from God. There is much controversy regarding whether or not faith is a gift. From the context, it would seem incongruous to assume that dead sons of disobedience would be able to muster up even a shred of faith to believe the gospel. Furthermore, John 3:3 states that one must be “born again” (raised from death to life) to see the kingdom of God. For those who have an adequate understanding of Greek grammar, Jim McClarty has an excellent explanation from within Ephesians 2:8-9 of why faith is also considered a gift—I’ll leave that alone until I learn enough Greek to explain it for myself. Nonetheless, at the heart of sola gratia is the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit. It is a glorious reality that the Triune Godhead is intimately involved in the salvation of sinners!
Grace is not of us or our works. Though much has already been stated about the external nature of grace, it is not an overstatement to say that grace is all of God. Justification does not come through our adherence to the law, nor does it come through an infusion of Christ’s righteousness combined with our righteousness (Gal 3:10). Our righteous deeds, apart from Christ are filthy, bloody, menstrual rags—a completely disgusting object (Isaiah 64:6)! Instead, God the Father showed compassionate love to sinners (John 3:16). God the Father sent His Son to those who were His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). God the Son took on human flesh (John 1:14). God the Son fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law (Romans 8:4). God the Son became a curse for us (Gal 3:13). God the Son rose from the dead for our justification (Romans 4:25). God the Holy Spirit regenerated and renewed us (Titus 3:4-5). God the Holy Spirit leads us (Gal. 5:18). God the Holy Spirit cries out as the Spirit of adoption within us (Romans 8:15). God the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ to present us a spotless and blameless in the last day (Romans 8:29, Eph. 5:26-27, Rev 19:6-9). Without God’s work in our salvation, we would be dead because “in Adam all die”, and we are all in Adam (1 Cor. 15:22).
Grace is given as a gift so we won’t boast. We live in an age of almost unrestrained boasting. Social media gives us a platform to display the grandeur of our lives for the world to see. We can boast in our achievements at work, school, sports, and even church. However, we can never boast in our salvation because it was not of us. John 1:13 speaks that all who receive Christ are “born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Look at all the “nots”! There is nothing for decaying, sin sick people to boast in! In fact, the only boasting found favorable in the scriptures are boasting in God, about other saints, and in our weakness.
Does making “Sunday Candy” keep a rapper from going to hell? Of course not! What keeps us from going to hell isn’t a religion that can be compatible with Islam, Catholicism, Black Hebrew Israelism, or any other belief system. Stated positively, what gets us into heaven is the grace of God, through faith. We are justified by grace alone through faith. Each and every person in this world has been appointed a day to die and meet the Lord in judgment. For those of us who are in Christ, our only song will be “Jesus Paid It All”. Don’t buy into the culture’s definition of faith and spirituality. If the finished work of Christ isn’t your source of righteousness, you’ve missed grace. If the grace of God doesn’t instruct you to deny worldliness and strive to live holy and upright in the present life (Titus 2:11-14), you’ve missed grace. Repent and be saved. By Grace alone through faith.
This was originally posted at: https://www.wrathandgrace.com/single-post/2018/05/14/Sola-Gratia-Grace-Alone
We know several people who have been on short-term mission trips. Perhaps you’ve even been on one yourself and proclaimed to others that you gained more from that trip than the people you went to serve. Maybe you’re a full-time missionary living in another nation (at least for the majority of the year). Most likely, you’re an average church member who knows the Great Commission, but you don’t feel called to long-term overseas ministry. Regardless of where you stand, “Missions” by Andy Johnson is an excellent introduction to missions. Johnson provides readers with ways to be mission-minded, live missional lifestyles, and serve those who are on mission at home and abroad.
Starting with a biblical foundation of missions, readers are called to make the gospel the center of all missionary work. Churches and leaders must send and support our missionaries well, and this means providing for them abroad and hosting them at home. Johnson reminds readers that mission work involves both church planting and supporting church planters. This means that many of our missionaries will go to support current local churches and their efforts rather than planting new churches. It’s vital to remember that partnering with healthy local churches in unreached or barely-reached areas teaches our churches how to wisely serve and support global missions.
Whether we support missionaries financially, with hospitality, or through short-term trips, we are commanded to be on mission. Church leaders and pastors must lead the cause in teaching and modeling a missionary heart and mindset for the local church. Whether it’s overseas or in our own nation, Christians are missionaries. Johnson reminds us throughout the book that missions is not an option, it is a vital aspect of healthy churches. I highly recommend Missions for church members as well as church leaders. It will help spark some good conversation and move our churches toward more mission-centered living.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The gospel is the world's most powerful message. This message is able to grip the hearts of the world's most wicked men and utterly transform them. It is a message so powerful that rulers of kingdoms and religious systems have fought fiercely to completely eradicate it from the globe. The message of the gospel has wrecked the lives of myriads of people (for the good) as they were transferred from darkness into God's marvelous light. Though the gospel is so powerful and has impacted the world for thousands of years, few people—even in Christianized nations—truly know the gospel and its implications.
Though millions of pages could be written about the gospel, it can be succinctly stated from many passages in scripture. Believing the gospel is required for salvation, and knowing the gospel is essential for fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Have you believed the gospel? If not, keep reading. Do you know the gospel enough to share it? If not, keep reading. Do you need the gospel in your life daily? Yes, you do, so keep reading. Titus 3:1–7—one of my most favorite passages in all of the scripture—presents 4 aspects of the gospel. The gospel can be summed up four words: God, man, Christ, response.
God God is the all-powerful and all-authoritative Creator of the universe. He demands that all live in light of that reality. He is the upholder of the universe, and in Him we live, move, and have our being. Though this truth is not explicitly laid out in the passage, we can see it in the authoritative commands laid out in verses 1–2. The apostle Paul—one of God’s chosen and inspired authors— wrote these commands with no less force than the 10 commandments because "all Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16). Every human being is called to honor and submit to God as holy and glorious through obedience and worship. Everything in all of creation was created for the purpose of worshiping God. In the case of Titus 3, God is glorified through our obedience to civil authorities and our fruitful good works toward others. Submission to earthly authorities exemplifies our faith and submission to God's ultimate authority.
Man There is one problem. In our sinful state, we don’t want anything to do with God or His commands. Look at verse 3, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”. There is nothing about that us that is pleasing to God apart from Christ. We were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27), but sin entered humanity in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Since then, every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:9–20). We see this in ourselves and everyone else as we look at Titus 3:5. Foolishness, disobedience, addiction, hatred, etc. are characteristics that we despise in ourselves and others because they reflect the worst about us. We are not as bad as we could be because God graciously restrains our sin, but we really are bad people. We really are evil people. We really are enemies of God. Because of this, we are all destined for eternal death in hell because, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22, Romans 5:12–14).
Christ Without a remedy, we are all left hopeless and helpless. But God didn’t leave us in our sinful state to work our way back to Him. He also didn't leave us to face our much deserved eternal punishment without a Savior. Look at Verses 4–5b: "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy...” This is glorious! Christ is at the heart of salvation! When Christ appeared, He saved! He saved according to His own mercy! He did the good works and became righteousness for His people because they aren’t able to meet the requirements of the law (Romans 8:4, 2 Cor 5:21). Jesus’ goodness is transferred into their accounts because He took the full wrath of God as their substitute (see Romans 4 for further study). This is often called "The Great Exchange". How did Christ achieve all of this? He laid down His sinless life by submitting to death on a cross to pay for the sins of all who would believe in Him (John 10:17–18, Phil 2:8). He rose from the grave with power after three days (Romans 1:14, 1 Cor. 15:4). Finally, He ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father and prepare a place for His sheep until He returns (Col 3:1–2, John 14:3). Christ is the remedy for our broken relationship with God! But how do you apply this message to your life?
Response: Throughout the scriptures, especially in the New Testament, we see the call to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2, Acts 17:30–31). The gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), and it is a message that demands a response from us. We have two options, we can either believe the gospel (more than a mental assent to the facts) or we can reject the gospel. Belief in the gospel means a life that trusts and rests in Christ’s finished work for our righteousness and salvation. Every person in the universe is accountable to respond in faith to the call of the gospel. Notice the language in Titus 3:5b–6 that salvation is through Christ and also “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” In our choice to believe, God is at work. He draws us to Christ (John 6:44). He gives us the new birth and eyes to see the kingdom of God (John 3:1–15). He places His Spirit in us and causes us to walk in obedience and repentance. This is the power that enables us to respond to the gospel (Ezekiel 36:25–27)! This power also carries us through the process of sanctification so that we may become a holy and blameless bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27)!
How Will You Respond? Now that you’ve heard the gospel message in it’s fullness, it is vital that you search yourself to see if you are believing and resting in this powerful message. Has your life been ruined by sin and death? Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Have you moved from death to life? If you haven’t, read and reread the numerous passages of scripture found in this post. The gospel is not a message to put off until later. Sin is deceitful and it only leads to death. Christ is glorious, and faith in Him leads to eternal joy and fellowship with Him for eternity! There is nothing more necessary for your soul than to rest in the work of Christ so your relationship with God can be restored!
Last week I wrote an article discussing the increasingly popular sentiment being embraced by many black Christian leaders and members loosely associated with reformed theology—namely, a departure from white evangelicalism. I must admit that I was a bit tongue-in-cheek with my definition of evangelicalism, and I understand that most of the Black leaders and congregants I’m speaking of are not leaving the foundational doctrines and teachings of the bible. I acknowledge that they are primarily departing from the notion that good ecclesiology is only found in predominantly-white churches and the way that they do things. Dr. Carl Ellis, Jr. stated, “evangelicalism is as much of a culture as it is a theological movement”. I understand why a lot of people didn’t jibe with my definition of evangelicalism.
Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup.
What I Wasn't Saying
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to offer some clarity to my original post. Here is what I was NOT saying:
I was not saying that all Black Christians are required to stay in predominantly-white churches under all circumstances. One of the primary pushbacks I received on my original post was that I implied that black and brown Christians staying in predominantly-white churches was the only way they could be in step with the gospel. That was far from my intentions, and I tried to make that clear in my post. I was responding to those whose attitude seems to be: “white people don’t agree with me on social issues or ecclesiology, so I’m done with them!” I find it more wise to call those white Christians who are guilty of the sin of elitism or racism to repentance and give them time to repent. Then, if there is an unwillingness to repent and church discipline does not take place, according to Matthew 18, then there is a good reason to leave that specific church. This does not call for a dismissal of all predominantly-white churches or believers; that would contradict the numerous passages in scripture calling for the unity of believers (John 17:23, 1 Peter 3:8, 1 John 4:12, etc.)
I was not saying that predominantly-minority churches are bad. I’ll be brief here. Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup. I’ll say it again: Any church that preaches the gospel and strives to live out its implications is a good church, regardless of its racial makeup. I appreciate my brothers in predominantly-minority and multiethnic churches. I am thankful that black and brown Christians have found a way to worship God together in spite of the hatred poured on them for hundreds of years in this nation. I rejoice in the fact that Christians from Latin America, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and every nation across the globe can faithfully worship God in their cultural expression for His glory alone (Rev. 7:9). I pray that you do too.
I was not saying that the only people who have sinned in this situation are Black Christians. It is well-known that racism has been a stain on the American church since its foundations. It is well-known that some white Christians owned slaves. It is well-known that many white Christians sat back and did nothing during the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial segregation. Predominantly-white churches don’t do everything right. White Christians aren’t the final authority on all matters of doctrine and theology. Many of us have been hearing and reading this in books and blogs for the past couple of years. Therefore, my focus was not to point out what some white Christians have and haven’t done. My intent was to address the “new level” of freedom to constantly and unlovingly speak negative words about our white brothers-in-Christ and the isolation that could come as a result of such an emphasis on their flaws.
Instead of seeking to understand and love one another, I fear that Christians in this nation will never learn what it means to “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15–18) when that weeping and rejoicing pertains to believers of another race.
What I Was Actually Saying
The purpose of my original post was dual in nature:
First, I want to call those departing evangelicalism to be more specific when they address the issues they are seeing in the church. Rather than merely saying “evangelicalism is the problem” and vaguely defining the terms, I am asking for specificity and clarity in the conversation. I am asking for what is meant by “leaving”. I want to know what aspects of “white evangelicalism” they are specifically speaking of. There needs to be a thoughtful calculation of the potential outcome of such actions. That is something that doesn’t seem to be addressed in any of the conversations that I have seen up to this point.
Secondly, I want to ask black and brown Christians in predominantly-white circles to consider striving to persevere in their local churches rather than departing from them. Instead of a mass exodus of minorities, I want to see Black Christians work to educate white believers on their history and struggles in the church and the larger society. I fear that a mass exodus of black and brown Christians would further exacerbate the racial tension and confusion in the Church rather than fix it. Instead of seeking to understand and love one another, I fear many Christians in this nation will never learn what it means to “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15–18) when that weeping and rejoicing pertains to believers of another race. This could mean that Christians of all races would only sacrificially love those who look like and love them. Even unbelievers know how to do that (Matt. 5:46–47). In Christ, we can do far greater.
A Call To Live Biblically
The call in my original post was not a blanket or general call to every minority Christian in every church. It was a specific call to those struggling right now. I am pleading that we be biblical in our dealings with brothers and sisters in Christ—no matter the hue of their skin. I am imploring that we focus on Christ and the gospel when we meet disagreement and misunderstanding in our churches, regardless of the racial makeup or church culture. I am earnestly asking—Black Christians, specifically—that we pursue unity with the same fervor that we desire white Christians to show in their pursuit of unity in the Church.
May we never refuse to see the genuine efforts of others because we fail to take the plank out of our eyes before searching for their specks! Let us never be willing to throw away gospel-centered obedience when discussing racial unity! Let us never expect others to be walking in step with the gospel while failing to do so ourselves (Gal 2:11–14)! In the words of Curt Kennedy, “Both us have a few sin issues that we know need addressing… both of us think we’re both right and the other’s wrong because they’re stubborn.” We all need to search ourselves and see that we are looking to love Christ and love others more than ourselves.
Webster’s Dictionary defines evangelical as synonymous with protestant, which broadly means “a Christian not of a Catholic or Eastern church” with more specific ties to the doctrines which separate Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. With the exception of mainstream and liberal churches, most Christians in America would align themselves with such a definition. Notably absent from this definition is a discussion of race or cultural preference because evangelicalism is primarily tied to the broad theological unity among those who continue to “protest” the teachings of the Catholic Church in favor of the gospel as presented in scripture.
Ameen Hudson wrote a thought-provoking article on Lecrae's departure from “evangelicalism". Though much could be said about the position of Lecrae and others who want to leave “white evangelicalism”, I simply want to note the misunderstanding and misuse of the term. Though Hudson doesn’t explicitly define "evangelical" in his post, he points out that "only 6% of black people and 11% of Latinos" identify as evangelical and that these statistics “give us insight into how much of a minority African Americans and Latinos are in an evangelical world that’s largely white.” This statement—perhaps unintentionally—shifts the discussion away from theology to a focus on race.
These staggering statistics ought to be heavily considered as we seek to understand the causes and consequences of such a stark reality. However, we must also ask some questions. If such a small percentage of minorities identify as evangelical, what is their religious identity (in terms of their theology)? If, according to Pew Research, 53% of African Americans are not “evangelical protestant” but “black protestant”, what truly separates them from white, evangelical Christians? Do they affirm the 5 solas? Do they protest papal authority? Is race and culture the only difference between them? These are questions that must be addressed for the sake of clarity and unity in the body of Christ.
Two Areas Of Concern
Is the “whiteness” of evangelicalism the real problem?
The term “white evangelical” has been a buzz word in secular media as well as Christian circles lately to differentiate between conservative, white Christians and other groups of Christians (especially minorities). This term is often used when black Christians are discussing highly racialized issues such as the Michael Brown shooting or the kneeling of NFL players fighting systemic racism. In those cases, there are some white Christians who stand in disagreement on the issues, and they are quickly branded, and often disregarded, as "white evangelicals".
Regardless of the circumstances, it is often unclear what is meant by those who use the term because it is not often defined in the posts. The reality is that there are some white Christians who are ignorant of the struggles of black people in America. There are some white Christians who fail to ask questions before blasting their opinion on social media. There are some white Christians who refuse to acknowledge the wrong in the history of the church. But this does not represent all white Christians who identify as evangelicals.
Equally, there has also been a trend of sound, gospel-centered, rappers, preachers, authors, and bloggers rapidly and drastically changing the content of their music, social media presence, and response to fans and followers. Their discussions of racialized issues sometimes seem lacking in gospel application. Their conversations, at times, appear to shun all who disagree with them—especially white evangelicals. The truth in their messages sometimes feels like an unloving horse pill to swallow because they are writing from a place of pain, feeling misunderstood, broken, and sometimes righteously angry at the circumstances befalling them.
We have to ask some more questions, though. Should the animosity be aimed at white believers? Why is there so much talk about leaving “white evangelicalism”? Why is this “new level” of rebellion against evangelicalism something to be so celebrated? This mentality seems to fall short of addressing the root of the problem.
Is leaving evangelicalism a solution to the real problem?
At the risk of being shunned and considered a sellout, I am concerned that this new-found freedom and departure from evangelicalism will only lead to further isolation from white Christians in a way that will continue the segregation that began at the hands of white racism. How can we be of “one accord” (Phil 2:2) when we distance ourselves from the very people we need to be united with? If we speak our minds and people immediately (and perhaps, wrongly) disagree with us, should we turn our backs and give up on them?
If black Christians consider our white brothers and sisters to be in sin, shouldn’t our solution be to restore them with a gentle spirit, watching out for ourselves so that we also won’t be tempted to commit the very sin we feel that they are committing (Gal 6:1)? Shouldn’t we call them to carry our burdens and examine themselves to see if they are in sin, as well (Gal 6:4–5)? It seems that there isn’t much of this going on right now—especially via social media where most of these discussions take place.
The Way Forward
As a Christian who is black, I deal with some of the same struggles as many of the people I am speaking of. I am in a predominantly-white church in rural Kentucky. I mourn at the police shootings, I feel the weight of threats of white nationalist rallies in my home state, I feel uneasy at a traffic stop from time-to-time, and I weep over the lack of love shown by somewhite Christians on my newsfeed. I’ve been treated and viewed wrongly due to my race, even in churches within my community. However, as I consider Philippians 2:1–4 and Romans 12:1–8, I don’t think leaving evangelicalism will fix these problems or the problems in the Church.
God calls us to be united. God calls us to count others as greater than ourselves. God calls us to have the mind of Christ. If all non-white Christians leave all the predominantly white churches, we will not only be disregarding God's command for unity, but we will be equally guilty of the sin of kinism and dividing the body into sects and factions based on race and culture. If all non-white Christians look at our white Christian brothers with disdain as “those white evangelicals”, we will be just as guilty of partiality as some of them are.
My prayer is not that black and brown Christians leave evangelicalism—even with of all of its flaws and imperfections. My prayer is that we cling to the One who died for sheep from all nations in the world, and beg for His grace to cling also to one another. My prayer is that we keep Christ’s high priestly prayer in our hearts and minds as we navigate the challenging racial climate in this nation and our churches. May the Church be the first place we see racial unity in this nation.
As the father of two baby girls, parenting books are beginning to show up on my radar. Foolishly, I thought parenting would be easy because I am a Christian and have seen other godly families parent well. I assumed that parenting meant little more than making my children do what I asked them and preaching the gospel faithfully to them until they are adults. However, I was sadly mistaken in my thoughts of parenting being easy and even more mistaken in the method I should use in parenting my children. I have found myself in a constant cycle of frustration and disappointment as my oldest daughter’s will seems to be rather fierce and clashing with my own strong will. After working through Crossway’s daily videos based upon Parenting by Paul Tripp, I knew I needed to make some changes for my own sake as well as for the sake of my children. I was excited to get my hands on it, and I am so glad I spent a few weeks reading and listening to this book. I will certainly be reading this one again and again.
I could spend days writing of the numerous lessons I learned through reading this book, but I will share the three largest takeaways I had while reading Parenting:
My calling as a parent is to be used as a tool and an ambassador to shape the souls of my children in hope that one day they will turn to the Lord and put their faith in Christ. In this calling, I am reminded of the weight and seriousness of parenting because I am not just manipulating behavior or dishing out discipline for when they make me angry or embarrassed. My calling as a parent is the same calling I have as a Christian which is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). As a father, this begins in my home.
My inability as a parent leads me to trust more in Christ than on tools typically used by parents to manipulate their children. Tools such as: fear, reward, and shame are not effective in changing the hearts of my children and thus shouldn’t be my primary means of shepherding my children. Instead, I must acknowledge that apart from Christ I can do nothing (John 15:5), and beg of God to change the hearts of my children when they are in sin and in need of discipline.
In conjunction with the previous point, I realized that my ultimate goal is not to control behavior. Any man or woman can control behavior using cognitive behavior therapy, drugs, etc. When my wife and I dealing with children who are sinners in need of a Savior, they need more than some manmade, man-centered behavior strategies. They need the gospel of Jesus Christ. They need the lamb who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
Paul Tripp doesn’t offer readers a parenting style that shuns discipline, rules, or structure. In fact, he speaks on the necessity of not letting our kids live as though they are their own gods. Instead, we are to use every bit of our parenting —the fun and exciting moments as well as the painful and tear-filled struggles—to point our children to the gospel. Tripp’s use of realistic scenarios coupled with his excellent writing ability make Parenting an excellent read for parents seeking to raise children in the most godly way possible.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Human Heart Is Complex As I read The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre, I saw that the human heart is extremely complex. Whether in a formal counseling setting or in daily life, we must interact with people understanding that they are thinking, feeling, and active beings. We can’t merely operate with them in one aspect of their heart to the neglect of the others. Not only is this vital for all human relationships, but it’s also vital as we relate to God. Dr. Pierre powerfully impacted my view of God and human interactions. As I learned more about how my heart and the hearts of the people around me worked, I learned more about how each of these aspects of my heart affect my relationship with God and others. I learned that God, through His grace, renews my thoughts, emotions, and actions, and that I need to evaluate each of those areas of my heart in my relationships with my wife, friends, and counselees to be an effective believer and counselor. Since I tend to focus on my thought life rather than my actions, I will now be daily looking to filter all of these areas of my heart through the gospel. The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life was firmly rooted in the gospel and the Word of God. There were many reminders that we can’t focus on changes in any area of the heart without the grace and mercy of God. Looking back to the first section of the book, the depravity of the heart apart from Christ is a powerful reminder of the need for Christ in order to elicit any change in our lives. As I read this, I was convicted of the many times I seek to change without utterly relying on the grace of God through the gospel.
An Enjoyable Read I really enjoyed interacting with Pierre in his writing. As I was reading, I felt that he found a good balance between being technical and relatable. Early in the book, he was more technical as he explained the functions of the heart, but as I got more into the book, I felt like he was a counselor or a trainer giving me godly wisdom and counsel for my life and work as a biblical counselor. I have met Dr. Pierre in person, and I know that his personality definitely shined through in his writing. There were very few places (if any) where I felt myself arguing or questioning Pierre’s rational for his statements. Pierre goes above and beyond to provide readers with the reasons for his main points. He also did a great job of reminding readers where they were, where they had been, and where they were going in the book. I never felt lost or that Dr. Pierre took unnecessary rabbit trails throughout the book.
An Applicable Read The last few chapters of the book are flooded with extremely applicable questions regarding how to read, reflect, relate, and renew the human heart by looking to God in the various areas of our hearts. I will be seeking to assess how I relate to God, others, and myself, and how those responses should be filtered through the scriptures. This book particularly focuses on human relationships and interactions, so even my smallest conversations will be impacted by what I learned. As I am thinking through applications for Sunday school, sermons, and community group gatherings, I will now consider the dynamic nature of the hearts of the people I am talking to or teaching. I will not only focus on actions (as I have been tempted to do in the past). I will also focus on how thinking and emotion impact people’s actions as well.
An Excellent Resource I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Not only was it a good introduction to the human interaction aspect of counseling, but it was also a great resource for looking into my own heart on a daily basis. As a natural thinker, I am wired to reject the emotional aspects of my heart to the extent that I fail to notice the impact my emotions have on my thinking and my actions. I am thankful for this excellent work by Dr. Pierre and look forward to using this as an essential tool in my biblical counseling ministry.
I received this book free from the publisher and willingly wrote this review for Cross Focused Reviews.
Michael Horton’s new book Core Christianity is an excellent introduction of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. For the nonbeliever, this is a wonderfully concise introduction to Christianity fit for the task of presenting the basic beliefs of the faith and answering some (but certainly not all) oppositions to Christianity. For the new believer, it is perfect for enhancing their understanding of the core beliefs of the faith and why these truths are so vital. For the seasoned believer, it is a great opportunity to revisit those essential doctrines which may get pushed to the back burner for more pressing “practical” needs. For discipleship, this book is a useful tool that should be in arm’s reach for anyone dedicated to making disciples. Horton skillfully, concisely, and effectively tackles difficult doctrines such as: Jesus’ divinity, the trinity, and God’s goodness.
Horton’s writing style is very welcoming as he brings heavy doctrinal topics with a conversational tone that feels more like a helpful friend than a lecturing professor. This makes the use of terms such as sabellianism, arianism, and other highly theological verbiage more accessible to an audience that isn’t likely reading a systematic theology to further their understanding of biblical doctrines. This is the most practical and helpful aspect of the book. Readers aren’t left with answers they could find in a few moments of a google search, yet they also aren’t left feeling like the algebra 1 student who accidentally wound up in a calculus classroom. With the exception of a few sections, a person could know very little about the Christian faith and still glean much from a single reading of this book. The person looking to know more could read this book several times and gain great depth from this very same book.
Readers a presented with four D’s which help to see how “knowing, experiencing, and living are interconnected” in each main doctrine of the Christian faith. When describing the first of the four D’s — drama— Horton reminds readers that “God reveals what he is like, not in ivory tower speculation but down on the ground in real history.” This means that God revealed Himself in the context of the bible’s big story, not in a systematic theology or dictionary style book. In speaking on doctrine, Horton says, “from the throbbing verbs and adverbs of the drama we are given stable nouns. God himself teaches us that he has acted wise, justly, mercifully, and omnisciently” because he is those things. Men don’t make up doctrine or theology, they get them from the Bible as part of God’s unfolding drama. That drama and doctrine must then lead to doxology which means “praise”, because God revealed Himself so men would worship and glorify Him. Lastly, doxology should yield love and good works which are manifested in discipleship. These four D’s are helpful for readers as they consider the core aspects of true Christianity.
In Core Christianity, Horton presents readers with several doctrines followed by a big picture overview of the bible. After these, he reminds us that we must rely on the scriptures alone to define our story rather than letting our life experiences and opinions define God and his word. To finish the book, readers are called to stop waiting and respond to these truths in faith. Horton emphatically asks readers, “What are you waiting for?”and then follows this question with the reality and unpredictability of death. Finally, he reminds readers that all believers have callings to work for God’s kingdom whether they are ministers, stay-at-home-moms, or factory assembly line workers. This work happens outside the church doors and none of it happens without keeping the gospel at the heart of Christianity. He ends the book with these powerful sentences: “It is this history of Jesus and not that of this age that is the real rudder of destiny—both the story of the world and the story of our own lives. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” This is the message and core of Christianity.
I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
More Than Enough by Lee Hull Moses is a discussion of very pertinent topics for both Christians and Non-Christians alike. Moses discusses topics such as: simple living, use of financial resources, sustainable use of energy and water, growing our own food, and even making our clothes! She explains that these things may or may not be easily changed or even possible for most people-including herself. Readers are reminded that hypocrisy is inevitable in some ways because we can never perfectly grasp the complex issues that are related to wealth and sustainable living. More Than Enough is one woman’s attempt to live a more sustainable life in a country that is riddled with excess and materialistic tendencies.
The positive aspects of this book are numerous. Moses presents very convicting questions and facts about the complexities of life, our use of money, the amount of stuff we have piled up, doing good things for our neighbors (wherever they may be), and using our voices to make a change in local and federal government issues. She is very honest and open when she says, “I know that I can’t ignore the broken world just because my life is good, and also—though this has taken along time coming—I know that just because the world is broken doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my good, sweet, holy life”. It is a difficult road to consider the riches of being a middle or upper class American and trying to live a lifestyle which doesn’t crush the people in the world around us. The reality, she says, is that “most of us are not going to figure out how to live self-sustainably”. Moses’ aim is clear in the opening pages as she asks: “So how do we make faithful choices in those everyday tasks of living in the world?” She continues, “Im not going to tell you what choices to make or how to live. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned and what my family has tried—and sometimes what we’ve been meaning to try but haven’t.” Her aim is to give stories, examples, and biblical hope for people seeking change in their materially abundant lives. The point of this book is not that rich people should have less, but that everyone should have enough. For those who have more than enough, she is urging that they find a way to be satisfied with enough and give to those who have less than that.
Though the previous aspects of the book make it a good read for people interested in these issues, I would recommend reading this book very cautiously or finding alternative books which works through these issues. One issue I had with this book came in the form of Moses’ subtle—or maybe not so subtle— nudges in the liberal evangelical direction. Being a reformed, conservative evangelical, I found it a bit alarming that the author nonchalantly mentions participation in yoga classes, support of female pastors, the practice of mindfulness, and what seems to be a supportive stance on the legalization of gay marriage (she says, “gay marriage is finally legal” in a seemingly positive light). I also felt that this book was heavy on social justice and lighter on the essence of the gospel. The gospel is mainly about sinful people being restored to a right relationship with the loving God of the universe so that they may dwell with Him for all eternity in joyful worship and adoration. Christians are indeed called to live as lights in a dark world and bring change. They are also called to make disciples until Christ returns. I feel that a more gospel centered emphasis is important in preventing people from a self-centered, legalistic pursuit at change that must begin on a heart level.
If you read More Than Enough you will surely gain some very valuable insights into social justice, sustainable living, and being agents of change in this world. These are certainly issues that the Church as a whole needs to think through. However, there are more conservative books such as: Radical, Follow Me, or Counter Culture by David Platt which offer a more balanced view of how to bring change in the world by keeping the gospel central and leaving out the liberal aspects discussed above.
I received an advance copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.(less)
In the midst of all the turmoil in America right now, it could be easy to scroll Facebook and news apps all day and not open our Bibles. Though they are not specifically wrong things to do (in moderation), reading the news or social media can take our eyes away from God and the praise He deserves. We may be thinking to ourselves, "How can we praise God in a time like this?" King David saw his fair share of terrible days and yet penned (inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course) some of the greatest songs ever written. I came across Psalm 145 while doing my daily reading from the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (you can find it here). That Psalm had these 29 reasons to praise God every day:
God is great: "Great is the Lord... His greatness is unsearchable"
God has mighty acts
God's majesty is of glorious splendor
God has done wondrous works
God's awesome deeds are mighty
God is abundantly good
God is righteous
God is gracious
God is merciful
God is slow to anger
God abounds in steadfast love
God is good to all
God shows mercy "over all that he has made"
God has a glorious kingdom
God is powerful
God has created and rules an everlasting kingdom
God has enduring dominion throughout all generations
God is faithful in all that He says
God is kind in all of his works
God is an upholder of those who are falling
God raises up those who are bowed down
God is the self-sustaining sustainer of men
God is generous to every living thing
God is near those who call on him
God fulfills the desires of those who fear him
God hears the cries of those fear him
God saves those who fear him
God preserves all who love him
God will destroy all the wicked
If we prayed through these attributes each day, we would find ourselves continuing "steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). Pray this Psalm everyday if it will deepen your communion with God and cause you to say, with David, "Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever."